Breast Cancer Care

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According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, excluding skin cancers. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.
  • About 1 in 8 (12%) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.
  • Nearly 232,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States in 2015.
  • Approximately 40,000 deaths from these cancers are expected in 2015.
  • The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%). Early detection through screening, increased awareness, and improved treatments have enabled these death rates to decline.
  • There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. (This includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.)
  • About 60,290 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive form of breast malignancy) in 2015.

Source: Accessed on 24 Nov 2015. Last Medical Review: 9/25/14 Last Revised: 6/10/15

Risk Factors

While the exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, certain risk factors are linked to the disease.

Uncontrollable risk factors, or those that cannot be changed:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Genetic Risk Factors
  • Family History
  • Personal History of Breast Cancer
  • Race
  • Abnormal Breast Biopsy
  • Earlier Breast Radiation
  • Menstrual Periods

Other Risk Factors:

  • Not Having Children
  • Birth Control Pills
    • Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy (PHT; also called hormone replacement therapy)
    • Breast-feeding and Pregnancy
    • Obesity and High-Fat Diets

Early Detection

Finding Breast Cancer early is the best strategy for successful treatment.

Age 45 and Older

Mammogram and Clinical Breast Exam Yearly

Age 30-45

Yearly Breast Exam

Age 20-30

Clinical Breast Exam at least every three years

Starting at Age 20: 

Breast Self-Exam is recommended every 3-4 months.


A mammogram is today’s most effective way to detect breast cancer when lumps are too small to be felt or seen. It usually consists of two or more low-dose x-rays. Mammography is not painful, although it may feel slightly uncomfortable because the breast is compressed for a few moments.

Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)

A Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) is performed by your healthcare professional. It gives you a good opportunity to ask any questions you may have. If you choose to do breast self-exams, this is a good time to receive instruction. Have your CBE prior to a mammogram so any suspicious areas can be evaluated during the mammogram.

Breast Self-Exam (BSE)

Examining your breasts yourself is called a Breast Self-Exam (BSE). The American Cancer Society recommends that women in their 20s make the decision with information from their healthcare professional, about whether and how often to do BSE. However, many experts recommend doing a BSE monthly to increase your awareness of how your breasts normally feel and look, so any changes can be quickly detected and reported.

MRI (Magnetic Radiographic Imaging)

May be used at 1-2 year intervals for screening in young patients with dense breasts who have a genetic risk of breast cancer.


Women at average risk for breast cancer might reduce their risk somewhat by changing those risk factors that can be changed. If you give birth to several children and breast-feed them for several months, avoid alcohol, exercise regularly, and maintain a slim body, you are decreasing your risk of getting breast cancer. Likewise, avoiding postmenopausal hormone therapy will avoid increasing your risk.

Other than these lifestyle changes, the most important action a woman can take is to follow early detection guidelines. Following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for early detection will not prevent breast cancer but can help find cancers when the likelihood of successful treatment is greatest.

There are however no known absolute methods of prevention.

Radiation Therapy Treatment Options

IGRT (Image-Guided Radiation Therapy) 

IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) 

Pulsed Reduced Dose Rate Radiation Therapy

Calypso® System for Breast Cancer

Other Treatment Options

Surgery Most women with breast cancer have some type of surgery. Operations for local treatment include breast-conserving surgery, mastectomy, and axillary (armpit) lymph node sampling and removal.

Radiation Therapy Also called radiotherapy, radiation therapy is one of several treatments used to treat cancer by itself or in combination with other forms of treatment to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. More than half of all cancer patients receive some radiation therapy as part of their treatment, and is given either externally, through external beam radiation, or increasingly through internally, with techniques such as brachytherapy.

Chemotherapy This treatment uses cancer-killing drugs that may be given intravenously (injected into a vein) or by mouth. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in most parts of the body. Chemotherapy may also be recommended based on the size of the tumor, grade of the tumor, and presence or absence of lymph node involvement.

Hormonal Therapy Another form of adjuvant systemic therapy, the hormone estrogen is produced mainly by a woman’s ovaries until menopause. After menopause it is made mostly in the body’s fat tissue, where a testosterone-like hormone made by the adrenal gland is converted into estrogen. Estrogen promotes the growth of about two-thirds of breast cancers (those containing estrogen or progesterone receptors and called hormone receptor positive cancers). Because of this, several approaches to blocking the effect of estrogen or lowering estrogen levels are used to treat breast cancer.

Biologic Therapy This therapy is used to boost the body’s immune system to fight against cancer; interferon is one example. Biologic therapy uses treatments that promote or support the body’s immune system response to a disease.